Emma Meek of Surrey boutique Miss Bush is a driving force behind Luxe Bride, as the creative director of this vibrant retailer association. Here she delivers sound advice to all would-be bridal boutique owners
How not to start a bridal shop…
A few weeks ago, I found my business, Miss Bush, being tagged on Instagram by one of my retail friends in the north. Helen, owner of Lulu Browns, was rightly aghast and shocked that a start-up bridal boutique had “secretly shopped” her store. This geographically close competitor was not only wasting her time and that of her staff, but also started a peer relationship based on mistrust, deceit and downright hostility. Bad form on its own, but it was also followed by said ‘start-up’ approaching one of Helen’s staff members on a night out, offering Champagne in exchange for privileged business information.
Helen tagged me in an Insta story for moral support. I made no secret that the very same thing happened to me. After being secretly shopped for several hours I ran into the same would-be boutique owners on one of my supplier’s stands at a trade show the very next day.
There may be those among you that think that this is harmless, inevitable or sensible. It is none of the above. I have never secretly shopped a competitor, because the essence of good retail at our level is not learned from pretending to be a client.
Good boutique retail requires a singular, personal vision. One needs to know the trials and errors, the challenges and achievements that a particular store has faced to know why it has evolved as it has. The poor outcome of secret shopping, of copying, would be to become a pale imitation of a competitor. Worse still, however pretty a boutique may look, however lovely the staff, it could be smoke and mirrors. A recipe for disaster not success.
I loved my dress
Many business start-ups in bridal retail are recent brides who loved the experience of wedding dress shopping or loathed it and want to create a new, better offer.
The retail performance of any given boutique should be an inspired experience for the bride, delivering the exact blend of product and service that targets a very specific, niche client base. Enjoying or not enjoying this experience from client-side, demonstrates huge ability or huge lacuna in the skillset of the specific boutique.
The business is your baby
Decorating the nursery, choosing names, buying clothes, maternity leave… all the cute stuff you dream about wrapped round an adoring, grateful bundle of joy… Isn’t this how most of us view our first child? Well I certainly did.
No one stops having kids when the reality of cracked nipples, fertility issues, sleep deprivation and a life-time of anxiety are discovered. The idea that you are also birthing a surly, spotty ingrate of a money-pit is far from the rose-tinted pre-parent’s mind.
The cute, enticing and adorable qualities of babies and bridalwear are what stop the human race and our businesses dying out.
Before conception, through gestation, during delivery and beyond the early years, the parent and the business owner need support, hand-holding and advice. However beleaguered the NHS and the social care system are, they should meet your basic needs as a parent. But where do you go when you want to have a business?
In recent conversations with retailers it has become more and more evident that there is a need for clearly signposted options for business advice, sales and marketing training, mentoring and a care support network for pre start-ups, for people buying a business, for the early years.
You need to talk to retailers…
How then does one garner information ahead of starting a bridal shop or buying an existing business?
Luxe Bride is the first company, run by current and former bridal experts who can give you no nonsense, unbiased advice. Rather than being treated like a bride in a secret shopping scenario, a new or potential retailer can be supported and coached as they need to be; as an entrepreneur preparing to invest.
Seeking advice from the wholesale supply chain can be a lottery. I know very many supply chain account managers answer calls daily from start ups with ivory stars in their eyes and give sensible and cautious advice.
However, I also know many who will gladly take an order, sell sky high minimums, and, rightly so. It is their job to sell, not to give business advice.
Similarly, a business owner selling up will have one of many reasons for wanting to retire from retail. When the decision has been made to leave, the business becomes a commodity to be disposed of as fast as possible for the best possible price.
The lack of adequate due diligence I have heard about caused by the enthusiasm of the buyer and the marketing of the business is staggering. I have been told of stockroom finds that indicate clinical hoarding; overvalued sample stock running into near six figure sums. The lists go on…
The Luxe Bride offer
If you are thinking about opening a bridal shop or have been trading less than a year you can benefit from a one-off mentorship package of Luxe Bride. If your needs are more specific or you want ongoing support and training on a one-to-one basis plus membership of the Luxe Bride community, there is a Trade Membership option. There are also options to create a bespoke package of support and services.
Through the growing Luxe Bride network, we can recommend specific service-providing partners whether it is for help with marketing and branding, sales, business planning and accounts, social media or basic day to day processes for ordering, stock control and production. Sometimes we even talk about dresses and fashion…
Get in touch
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for an informal chat; all information, all worries and all bright ideas are treated in the strictest confidence.
For more information about all levels of membership https://issuu.com/luxebrideuk/
For more information about Luxe Bride, training and to read our magazine visit luxebride.co.uk